Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lost my foraging cherry...

...but gained some berries. Look!

I was out for a walk in one of the forest parks not too far from me when I noticed some elderberries. I've been dithering about gathering some for a while and had decided that the tree I found near work might be too close to the main road and generally being a bit scared of the whole thing. Silly perhaps but that's the way these things go. So, having decided that I had missed my chance this year and that next year I would definitely go foraging and pick elderflowers and then later in the year elderberries, I spied these ripe berries (all of the other lower branches had been stripped already, I could see where bunches of berries had been broken off but, obviously, by someone shorter than me). There were lots more berries very high up but I got these without too much trouble. After stripping the black ones from the stalks (a quick read of the internet let me know the green ones are not ripe and could make you sick if you eat them, no mention of the dark red, not quite ripe ones but to be on the safe side I won't use them) I had 75g of berries. Not quite the 500g called for in the pontack sauce recipe I've had my eye on for a while but I'll do my best and have them steeping in 75ml cider vinegar in a low oven now.

I'm excited and also nervous. Hope it works out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WW week 2

Needn't have worried. Weight loss 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs). Definitely need to keep going for long walks at the weekend. It helps a lot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jeans and wishes

I have not had a great ww week and have gone rather close to maximum points (i.e. including using up extra points earned from exercise) on a couple of days. Didn't think it'd be so hard in just the second week but I'm trying to make the plan fit my life rather than ditching all the food I normally eat for the duration and then ending up putting weight on again as soon as I stop so I have accepted the fact that things will go slowly. And I'll find out tomorrow how things have actually gone and am secretly hoping it won't be too bad. I am going to cheat a little by going to an afternoon class rather than an evening class so I won't have just eaten my dinner but that's just hedging my bets rather than cheating really :-)

It occurred to me at the weekend that the trousers (knee length trousers are becoming essential to staying cool enough to stay sane in the summer here) I bought in a sale only about three weeks ago were feeling a bit loose so I decided to take a chance on trying on a pair of jeans I bought the weekend before last. There is a shop on my road which sells everything from pricey furniture and bedding to cheapie clothes and shoes, household goods and knickknacks and a somewhat strange collection of 'posh' foodstuffs. They are closing down for renovations at the end of this week and have been selling stuff at really reduced prices for a few weeks now. I have bought a few things, including huge pillows to use for my couch and some very handy measuring bowls (I bought one small one and used it so much the first week I had it I went back and bought more), a big bag to use for my knitting stuff and two pairs of jeans. I love wearing jeans but haven't worn any for years at this stage. I decided to grab a pair of the biggest ones and the next to biggest ones because at 5 euro each I felt they were worth taking the chance on, especially since they were 34' leg jeans, which are not always easy to come by. I tried them on when I got home and although I was able to pull the bigger ones all the way up I couldn't even think about trying to close them. I decided this morning that just for fun I would try them on again and that I would be able to use them to track my weightloss progress over the coming weeks, thinking that being able to wear them would be something to look forward to. They pulled up much more easily than before and to my amazement I was able to close them with only a teensy, tiny bit of effort (honest, there was no lying down on the bed nor nothin'!). And I've had them on for a couple of hours now and they are actually comfy. I was half expecting to need to take them off after a few minutes just so I could breath easily again. It feels like a big moment.

I have a few days off work and took advantage this morning and went to the farmers' market. It's the same one I go to at the weekend but much quieter. I went fairly early, hoping to get to chat to some of the people I buy from regularly for a change but I ended up with the most impatient woman behind me (and she seemed to be following me from stall to stall) who kept huffing and looking pointedly at her watch while I was making my choices. If a couple of other people hadn't shown up behind her just then I would have just let her go ahead of me because I can't stand that kind of thing. I bought 1.5 kg strawberries and one small punnet of raspberries. I'm going to make one more batch of jam and then the rest of the strawberries are just for eating. I asked the guy today and he said he reckoned there are only about two weeks of strawberries left so I am going to take full advantage and eat as many as I can fresh while I can still get them. I also bought about 4 kg tomatoes, 2kg courgettes and 2kg onions. Yep, there are a few more batches of chutney in my immediate future. Wish I had more jars!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meal plan - 22nd to 28th August 2009

Saturday 22nd
Breakfast - after coming home from the market, bread roll with some turkey breast, tomatoes, cheese
Lunch - wrap with salad, tomaote, turkey breast, mozarella
Dinner - salad with seeds, tomatoes, cheese and vinaigrette dressing

Sunday 23rd
Brekkie - banana followed by a kaesebroetchen while out walking
Lunch - flammkuchen at flea market (v. v. bad points decision but I did enough walking to cover it I think. And it was delicious.)
Dinner - chicken parcel with salad. Slices of courgette then slices of tomato with a chicken breast fillet on top of that, slices in the chicken breast with a piece of garlic and a piece of mozarella and loads of herbs and black pepper all wrapped up in a tinfoil package (leaving plenty of room for steam to circulate) and cooked in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes. Love this dinner and haven't made it for ages.

Monday 24th
Brekkie - yoghurt with banana [made into a smoothie along with some strawberries]
Lunch - the second chicken parcel in a wrap [yum]
Dinner - salad [salad with some turkey breast and cheese]

Tuesday 25th (knitting group after work) - late in work so didn't make it
Brekkie - bread roll or toasted bread with frischkaese (cream cheese) [had this for lunch and just a kaesebroetchen from bakery for brekkie on the way to work. I was late and disorganised!]
Lunch - pasta with tomato, courgette and onion sauce which I made this evening. [had this for dinner instead]
Dinner - bread and cheese

Wednesday 26th (day off work and no choir in the evening)
Brekkie - yoghurt with fresh fruit from market
Lunch - pasta with tomato, courgette and onion sauce
Dinner - potatoes with scrambled eggs

Thursday 27th (day off work, ww in evening but may try and find a morning class instead)
Brekkie - smoothie [made with yoghurt, strawberries, raspberries and banana]
Lunch - potato salad [kaesebroetchen]
Dinner - rice with tomato, courgette and onion sauce [fried potatoes with tomato and courgette, cheese and turkey salami]

Friday 28th (day off work)
Brekkie - toast
Lunch - may try to do something with that box of quinoa I bought a few months ago and haven't known what to do with.
Dinner - possibly out, if not, bread and cheese.

The onions have arrived

I was delighted to see new harvest onions at the market a couple of weeks ago and bought a pile of them this week, along with some new harvest apples and plums, courgettes and tomatoes. And made chutney no. 1 yesterday. 17 x 240ml jars. The next couple of months are going to be tough, waiting for it to mature but I am really looking forward to it already. I bought a box of 45 jars, thinking I'd have some for next year as well but now I think I'll need to go back and buy more. Want to do at least one more load of tomato and plum with courgette based chutney and one load with pumpkin as well. I've also been looking through the River Cottage Preserves book again and have nearly convinced myself that I want to make piccalilli. Definitely want to try the hearty ale chutney as well, not to mention the figgy mostardo.

I dried some more tomatoes as well and have a load of strawberries drying at the moment. I bought 1.5 kg of strawberries but somehow only 1.2 kg made it into the dehydrator. Wonder how that happened?

Otherwise I've been trying to fit some exercise into my days. Went for a swim on Friday so I have finally gone in to the pool up the road from me and checked it out. It's amazing. A quick check on wiki tells me that it was opened for the first time in 1902 and the fact that it not only had a swimming pool but also baths and showers was good for the people living around as apartments in those days didn't necessarily come with those facilities. It was destroyed in a bombing in 44 but was able to reopen in 45 and was renovated in the late 90's. They don't use chlorine to disinfect it but some kind of membrane electrolysis. The changing rooms are individual 'cabins' and line the pool (plus there's a balcony above with more). So you walk down the back of the cabins, find your number, enter by the door, which you can lock and there is a cupboard to lock your stuff into. Then you simply open the curtain which hangs across the other side of the cabin and you are standing poolside. Showers are then down the other end of the pool. It was a bit weird to have a shower after swimming and then have to walk the length of the pool with a towel wrapped around me but really, anyone with nothing better to do than be watching me would have been able to see less than when I had my swimsuit on (I was glad I had brought a big towel though!).

This morning I took the tram out to Rath and walked up into the woods again. Walked for about an hour although the heat meant I needed to stop after 15 minutes of uphill and wait until I'd cooled down before getting going again. Even at nine in the morning it was heading for 20 degrees. Great if you're doing nothing but hot if you're moving around. Then this afternoon I met a couple of friends and we went to a huge flea market. Not very much interesting there although I was able to pick up a couple of brown bottles, which I know my brother has been looking for and I also snagged a copy of the Emperor wears no Clothes in English for 4 euro. I've been wanting to re-read it.

Oh, and for any youtube (or indeed art) fans out there, this is a video of the woman who won the Ukrainian version of "Got Talent". I'd never heard of sand animation before but thought this was amazing. It's telling the story of the German invasion of the Ukraine during WW2.
Kseniya Simonova

Friday, August 21, 2009

WW week 1

Weight loss = 2.5 kilos (which I was calculating as about 5 lbs since it's roughly double. But I just did a quick google and apparently it's 5.5 lbs. Even better!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bottled tomatoes

Here's the finished article:

The large jar with its lid slightly off is the one I used yesterday for dinner. I remembered just in time that I had wanted to take a photo. All of the lids sealed properly so although I'm not going to take any chances and will use these fairly quickly I think it was a good first attempt and I understand far more about the whole process now. If I can get my hands on a not terribly expensive gas one-ring hob next week I think I will go ahead and do some more. And I have big plans for next year.

Meal plan 15 - 21 August 2009

Really struggled writing this plan, not sure why. Am going to have to start adding breakfast as well or I will continue to call into the bakery every morning for brekkie, which won't help my weight loss at all.

Saturday 15th
Brekkie - kaesebroetchen from the bakery.
Lunch - planned bread and cheese but just ate a small square of cheese because I was busy doing stuff and intended to have an early dinner.
Dinner - ended up being even later than normal despite planning on it being early. But, I did cook the pasta with courgettes, tomatoes and onion that I've meant to do for the last two weeks and I added in some beef which I had in the freezer, defrosted and chopped into thin strips. I used one of the large jars of tomatoes I bottled last week and despite my misgivings everything seems to have worked the way it was supposed to and they were really delicious. As I hadn't had much for lunch and needed to bring up my points total for the day I added in some mozarella that was nearly at it's best before date. Really, really enjoyed this meal and have three portions of leftovers for lunches during the week.

Sunday 16th
Brekkie - smoothie made with yoghurt, strawberries and a couple of teaspoons of the runny raspberry jam
Lunch - Couscous with tomatoes, onion and lardons as well as some broccoli on the side and some mozarella to top it off. This being my first time to actually make couscous I massively overestimated how much I would need and now have two portions of leftovers in the fridge as well. Which means I'll move around some of the stuff I had planned for the rest of the week to accomodate them.
Dinner - corn on the cob [nope, a bowl of cornflakes]

Monday 17th
Brekkie - keeping it simple I think I'll go for a bowl of cornflakes. Am actually looking forward to colder weather to start eating porridge again! [check. Was disgusted to realise last night that what I thought was a new full box of cornflakes in the cupboard was actually a nearly empty one so it's all gone now]
Lunch - out to Vapiano (pizza/pasta) with friends from work [penne arrabiatta]
Dinner - originally planned to do sauteed carrots and onions but may just have some of the couscous leftovers [couscous leftovers]

Tuesday 18th
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit [kaesebroetchen]
Lunch - Pasta leftovers [check]
Dinner - out with book club [salad with fried potatoes and egg]

Wednesday 19th
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit [kaesebroetchen]
Lunch - couscous leftovers [pasta leftovers]
Dinner - corn on the cob and pasta leftovers [couscous leftovers]

Thursday 20th
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit [pasta leftovers]
Lunch - pasta leftovers [scrambled eggs and corn on the cob]
Dinner - omelette [kebab]

Friday 21st
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit
Lunch - rice with chinese vegetables (huge packet of frozen veg in the freezer which I had forgotten about)
Dinner - possibly out so not going to plan anything

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weight watchers

Went back to weight watchers on Thursday evening. Haven't been since I moved here and only went sporadically the last few months before I left Ireland. I still have my card from then though and the last time I went was 2 July, so a bit more than a year ago. I got her to weigh me in pounds as well as kilos. I'll just get weighed in kilos going forward but I wanted to see if there was a difference from what I weighed the last time and was absolutely thrilled to see that I've actually lost 7 lbs. I think I had lost more when I first moved here but put a bit on over winter again but it's a really big boost to know that overall I'm down. I've eaten plenty of crap since I moved here but just the different lifestyle and food available seems to be helping (as does living on the 4th floor with no lift I'm sure). I only went to one OA session when I arrived as it clashed with knitting and I decided the social contact of knitting was more important at the time. I'll keep on with ww for a while and maybe start going to a few OA meetings again in winter.

The ww program has changed though. Or, what is more likely, it's just slightly different here. So I have lots of figuring out to do over the next while but I think I might just drag out my Irish books and follow the plan I'm used to. The main thing for me at this stage is to start incorporating a lot more exercise into my life. I did this on Tuesday last week by walking home from knitting. It was still bright enough to do that (as the walk mostly involves walking through a park which I've been told I should avoid at night) but won't be in a few weeks so I have until then to figure out a way around it. It's really not that far from home, less than a 30 minute walk and only one stop on the underground. I heard recently that they've provided a space somewhere out the back of my building to keep bikes so I might start saving for a bike soon too.

Am heading off now to go (finally) to the organic garden run by the community college and see if I can volunteer there. I've intended to do this since February (when I even went to go and find it so that I'd be able to find it again when it was open without any problems) so it's about time I think.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Feckin' tomatoes!

Managed to get the tomatoes into jars after cleaning the kitchen, the jars and pots and anything else I thought I might be using. Did the hot water and cold water thing to get the skins off and then put them into jars. Got way more than I thought and ended up washing another large jar quickly to put the last of them into. Had no lemons left at that stage so added some vinegar instead. Will use that one first I think.

So, total of six kilos of tomatoes gave me 3 x 1 litre and 5 x .5 litre jars. Of course they wouldn't all fit in the canner so I had to put one of the smaller jars on top of the others. Same height as the the larger ones so hopefully it'll be okay.

I didn't de-seed the tomatoes as they were very fleshy to begin with but they ended up much juicier than I thought at the beginning. Oh well, it's all a learning curve I suppose. And my 2-ring hotplate is underperforming as spectacularly as I feared. I put them in there at just after seven o'clock and it took nearly two hours to boil (I had added a couple of kettles of boiling water, not just cold) and has boiled a little bit on and off since but never really properly. Temp hasn't gotten above 85 degrees either. But they've been in for nearly three and a half hours now and I'm tired and want to go to sleep so I'm taking them out. To hell with it. At the very least I'll find out in the morning if my first attempt at water bath canning worked at all. I suspect it won't with at least one of the leifheit jars as I was left with a spare ring but no lid at the end. I caught one instance where two lids were stuck together before I used them but obviously must have missed one before that. Too tired to care though.

Here's a pic of the hotplate. The small pot had the lids in it, when they had boiled for 10 minutes I moved it on top of the oven, which had the jars in it and gets very hot on top as well. The red pot is a 13 litre stockpot which I heated water in to blanch the tomatoes in. And you can see the size of the water bath canner beside that. I think that having both rings on on the hotplate seems to actually detract from the amount of power each gets so I have the canner on the larger ring with just a bit of it on the smaller one and had the smaller ring on just for a short while.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Jam and tomatoes

Boiled up the plum jam again having added the juice of a lemon to it. Still hasn't really set in any noticeable well despite a good twenty minutes. Have put it in jars anyway and will just put it away and forget about it.

Made another batch of the raspberry jam but this time added some strawberries as well (750g raspberries, 350g strawberries) and as I hadn't attempted making pectin stock again used jam sugar this time. Still hasn't really set very much but definitely more than last time. I kept a good eye on it this time and used a thermometer which showed that the temperature didn't really get much above 92 degrees so although I know only a bad worker blames their tools, I'm starting to wonder if the hotplate cooker I have is really up to the job.

I bought six kilos of tomatoes today to bottle them and bought some new jars as well. I've added a category of 'preserving supplies' to my annual budget costs. This year I'm just paying as I go but it'll take me a couple of years to build up a supply of jars I think so it seems sensible to put a small amount of money away each month to cover it rather than being broke every summer. I have friends saving jars for me as well and heard recently about a flea market which is held near here every week or so and will check that out for bargains as well.

So, tomorrow will be my first attempt at bottling tomatoes. I reckon six kilos of tomatoes should give me about 8 half-litre jars. I have seven half-litre jars and three 1 litre ones. Think I will do two big ones and the rest in the smaller ones. I checked the water bath canner and seven jars will fit in it at one time so that should just about fit. However, it is way too big for my cooker. If I leave it across the width of the two hotplates it leaves just a bit on each edge so of course the entire pot will not be directly on the heat at any time. Hopefully it'll work out. I have a few lemons and from what I can gather from various sources I need to add approx. the juice of half a lemon to each half-litre jar, stuff it with the skinned and de-seeded tomatoes and top up with boiling water if necessary, making sure to get any bubbles out. Then put the lids on, but not too tight and for the leifheit two-part lids make sure to release them a quarter turn before they go into the water bath to be boiled/processed for about 40 minutes.

Wish me luck!

Meal plan 8 - 14 August 2009

Saturday 8th
Lunch - burger [beef mince from the organic butchers made three lovely burgers to go with some of the tomato ketchup I made last week]
Dinner - Had planned on doing pasta with the courgette I still have from last week and some tomatoes but ate lunch at about four o'clock so that was dinner too. Not too warm today but still over 20 the whole day. Don't have much appetite.

Sunday 9th
Lunch - pineapple rice [done and delicious]
Dinner - salad [tomatoes and mozarella]

Monday 10th
Lunch - pasta leftovers [since I haven't actually cooked any pasta this obviously isn't going to happen so it'll be rice leftovers instead]
Dinner - plans to meet a friend [had a lovely salad with fried potatoes and a fried egg]

Tuesday 11th
Lunch - rice leftovers [check]
Dinner - scrambled eggs with bread + cheese [went to knitting and walked up so was later than expected but not really hungry so just had some cereal]

Wednesday 12th
Lunch - pasta or rice leftovers [bread, cheese, turkey salami]
Dinner - bread and cheese [cereal]

Thursday 13th
Lunch - pasta or rice leftovers [last of the rice and some yoghurt with strawberries]
Dinner - omelette with salad [just omelette made with one egg, tomaote, onion and some cheddar cheese plus one slice of bread]

Friday 14th
Lunch - out [had leberkaese with fried potatoes and salad, yummy]
Dinner - salad [didn't have lunch until after MRI so not until around half-four. No dinner, wasn't hungry or in the mood for eating]

Friday, August 07, 2009

Adjusting to a different climate

Although I don't feel like I'm that far away from where I grew up and lived for most of my life according to viamichelin it's 961km and that is enough to mean a very different climate. That was part of the reason I wanted to leave Ireland, just couldn't handle another rainy summer. But still, adjusting to the reality of a different climate is another story. And even though I have lived in Germany before I was mostly much further south and in or near mountains as opposed to the very flat place I live now (about 40km from the Netherlands and the flatness continues until a bit to the east and north of here).

That means that although it may get slightly warmer down south, it is very humid here and even at nighttime doesn't cool down much, unlike in the mountains where at least you can get some air. Yesterday it was 27 degrees when I went to bed at half-ten and, when I got up around midnight it had 'cooled' down to 21.

It is interesting learning to deal with it though and having to modify my behaviour to what seems to me to be completely illogical. So, to keep my apartment cool I've discovered recently that I should be closing the windows, not opening them to let in the air. Have a day off today and closed up the windows (except the one in the bathroom, which for smell reasons I prefer to leave open) not long after I got up. At that stage, it was nine o'clock and 22 degrees both inside and out. It is now just after 11 a.m. and while I'm sitting here feeling that it's a bit stuffy and rather warm, it is 4 degrees cooler in the apartment than it is outside (26 and 30 degrees respectively). Crazy stuff, don't think there has ever been a day in Ireland where that would happen but maybe I just never realised it might be a possibility there. It has also been difficult to get my head around the fact that I have to be looking out for damp and mould in the summer due to the humidity rather than in the winter due to the, eh, damp.

I've just checked the Met Eireann website and opened up the review of 2006, which is the latest they have up there. The mean annual temperature was 10.6 and it was the hottest year since 1997 although with the coldest March. The highest temperature recorded was 32.3 on 19th July and that was the highest temperature recorded since 1976. Temps for Dublin Airport were: mean 10.3, highest 26.5 and lowest -5.8. So that'll give you some idea of how different it is. Checking the forecast for today and the next few days in Ireland it seems to be highs of 16 to 20 (which I'd consider to be really nice weather) with lows of 10 to 13 overnight. While in Dusseldorf we have between 24 and 31, with rain due over the weekend and so the temps potentially dropping to 17. It's just a whole other world.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Vertical garden experiment

Here are some photos of my attempts to grow a few tomatoes indoors. I've discovered there are lots of things you need to pay attention to when growing indoors and in this climate: humidity and lack of airflow are big problems. Going away on holidays didn't help either as most of these plants are now completely withered. The few flowers I've had have shrivelled up and died before even properly opening. Apparently growing indoors can also lead to more sterile pollen (can't remember exactly why now, think the lack of air flow and potential dryness from growing in containers play a role) and the lack of wind means you do need to hand pollinate. Anyway, it has been interesting to do and once I clear out the dead plants this weekend I'm going to plant another few salad and spinach seeds and see if anything will come up and how long it might keep going through the winter. It should stay warm enough here for another seven or eight weeks, it doesn't really start getting cold until well into October (even based on my Irish idea of cold being different than the Germans', many of whom seem to consider anything less than 19 degrees worthy of cardigans and jackets.

This window box had two tumbler toms in it and a spinach plant. It was my most successful looking effort before going away and the most damaged when I got back. The spinach sort of seems to be coming back to life and the tomatoes aren't quite dead but I suspect when I cut off the damaged parts there really won't be a lot left.

And this was the contraption I created to try and get a few things growing. I'm actually pleased with the way it turned out but it's not really suitable for tomatoes, which just need bigger pots than this offered. But I'm going to try it again with just salady things and see how it goes. To the right you can see the other window box with the huge tomato plant. This was the plant I bought as a small one rather than growing from seed. You can see the size of it there and that was after the top three feet or so had bent over and snapped off. It probably survived the best but has only produced a few small flowers. There are a few on it now so I'll see if anything comes of it. I ran out of stakes big enough to tie it up a long time ago.

In the middle is a telephone table which I got from freecycle (it came up just when I was wondering how to get this whole vertical gardening thing going). I needed to have something which was on wheels so that it could be near the windows and thus the light during the day while I was at work but that I would be easily able to move out of the way in the evening when I got home and wanted to open the windows wide (necessary to air out the apartment and cool the place down). On top of it is a frame constructed using the shorter parts of two tomato tents I used in the garden in Ireland. So I have roughly a square foot frame, which just fits nicely on top of the telephone table and is about three feet high. Hanging from one side I have a kind of a metal fence part with some baskets, which is actually a kitchen utensils arrangement which I purchased from eBay for 4 euro. I lined the baskets with some plastic backed material and filled them with soil. I could have done a better job of lining them - there are bits where they leak so there is a towel in permanent position on the floor underneath them. And they are too small for tomatoes but the salad things did seem happy enough. Until they dried out and died that is but that's a minor point.

On the far side (i.e. facing the window) and just barely visible in this picture is a hanging bag, the kind you might use to put your toiletries in when travelling. Again I lined each pocket with some of the plastic backed material and filled it with soil. Unfortunately I didn't take account of how heavy the soil would be and so it was very difficult to get it to hang without completely sagging forwards. I'm glad I tried it though - if I had some way to support it a bit (maybe attaching lengths of bamboo stakes to give it a more solid structure then this could work although again only for smaller plants.

I have a third window box resting through the middle of the frame. I did this mainly to weigh it down and stop it falling over and as the tomatoes grew, tried to train them through the gaps in the metal part so they would get more light. These two plants are the ones with the least amount of damage so although I haven't seen any flowers on them yet they're going to get a good feeding at the weekend (assuming I can find anything to feed them with - so far all of these plants have only had water and whatever was in the compost they were planted it).

So there you have it. My first attempts at vertical indoor gardening. Mostly a plant it up and let's just see what happens effort I have to admit but I don't care about not getting anything edible out of it, I think it has been worth it just to have been able to grow something this year after all. I'll be very excited if I can get some more spinach going to use heading into (and maybe during) winter.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I think I'm going to become one of those people who just can't make jam. Tried again this evening, this time plum jam. It's the recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book and calls just for plums, a bit of water and ordinary sugar so I reckoned it must be easy enough. But no. Boiled for just over twice the length of time given and it's even less like jam than the raspberry attempt of a few weeks ago. I definitely don't want to add any more sugar as it is already extremely sweet. If I have the energy tomorrow evening I might try re-boiling it and seeing if that helps at all. But seriously, it's like plum coloured liquid with bit of fruit floating in it - not even a pretence of setting!

I also overdried the tomatoes but ho hum. They're in a jar full of oil and some vinegar now and I'm sure I'll find them edible enough to add to a pasta dish of some kind in the winter.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Meal plan and various preserving efforts

Second attempt at making tomato ketchup today after having remembered to actually buy cloves this time. Looks good. I used a mixture of tomatoes as I had bought a mixture from the market yesterday to try and see which ones I liked best. Aren't they pretty?

But what about the insides?
Even better! I liked the yellow and the green ones the best - they were very tasty and very sweet. The darker green striped ones were my least favourite.

Forgot to buy onions though and only had about half the amount called for in the recipe so I decided to make up the difference with some courgette. The recipe calls for allspice and cloves to be used but I had a look at some other recipes as well and decided to add a touch of ginger and mace as well. Tastes nice although by the time I got it reduced to a ketchup consistency there wasn't much left. Have two small (I think they were 240ml) jars and another one two-thirds full. They had already been cooling for half an hour when I realised one of the lids wasn't tight. Looks like ketchup is going to be that thing this year that just never seems to go right!

The last batch is now being called relish and is tasty although not particularly ketchupy. I'm going to buy a load of mince next week at the market and have a burger feast.

I also have a kilo of tomatoes on drying as well as 250g bilberries. I've cooked chickpeas and mixed with tomatoes and feta cheese to have for lunch during the week (the rest of the dressing has to wait until tomorrow morning as I forgot to buy lemons). And I put most of the strawberries I had bought into a pot and cooked them down for ten minutes. They'll go in a jar in the fridge and I'll have them during the week with yoghurt. And best of all, I have cleaned and tidied up after myself.

Given my apparent lack of ability to control myself when I'm at the market (I was giving myself this weekend off from any major cooking or preserving efforts but all that went out the window when I got to the market and realised plums and all the different types of tomatoes had arrived while I was on holiday), I have decided to start doing proper meal plans again. It means I'll be able to use up the food I have properly and of course it does save the effort of having to put any thought into meals during the week. I tend to only plan for lunch and dinner as breakfast is the same all the time. I am going to try and plan in deserts for dinnertime as well though.

Saturday 1 August
Lunch: cheese, turkey salami, tomatoes, bread
Dinner: boiled new potatoes, broccoli, chicken (bought marinated in wild garlic, absolutely fabulous!)
Dessert: plum crumble with yoghurt

Sunday 2 August
Lunch: cheese, turkey salami, tomatoes, bread
Dinner: leftover potato salad with broccoli and mozzarella cheese [wasn't feeling hot enough for salad so ended up making an omelette with the potatos and broccoli, a few tomatoes and some cheddar cheese]
Dessert: yoghurt with some of the raspberry jam that never was, strawberries and plums [had a few strawberries but was too full for anything else]

Monday 3 August
Lunch: chickpea salad
Dinner: lettuce, tomatoes, seeds, dressing and bread [still had potatoes left so fried them with an onion and a couple of tomatoes - washing lettuce just seemed like too much effort after the day I had it work]
Dessert: stewed plums [following the plum jam which wasn't fiasco of this evening I don't want to see another one for a while - am finishing a bottle of beer for dessert and having a few squares of chocolate]

Tuesday 4 August
Lunch: chickpea salad
Dinner: pasta with courgette, tomato, onion [more changes, very hot day today so in the 30 degrees it was at 8 o'clock when I got home I didn't feel like cooking at all. So I washed the lettuce (lots of little bugs on it, killed by the cold in the fridge I think - I look on it as confirmation that it really is organic, no pesticides on my lettuce) and had that with some tomatoes, some wine cheese and some farmers' cheese, the rest of the turkey salami, a few toasted sesame seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds and a vinaigrette dressing with one slice of bread at the end to mop up the dressing. Delicious and just filling enough.]
Dessert: yoghurt with raspberry and strawberry [I actually had this as an afternoon snack and am now sitting with my last six small squares of chocolate and going to savour eating each one of them]

Wednesday 5 August
Lunch: pasta leftovers [as I didn't have any pasta yesterday it was more chickpea salad for lunch]
Dinner: eat out before choir rehearsal [worked later than planned so only had time to grab a brezel on the way to rehearsal and then had a couple of slices of toast, one with cheese and one with raspberry jam when I got home]

Thursday 6 August
Lunch : pasta leftovers or chickpea salad (assuming I'll have some of one of these still leftover) [the last of the chickpea salad, a smaller portion supplemented by a chocolate croissant from the bakery]
Dinner: pineapple rice [latish home from work and too hot for cooking. Waited until it was a bit later and somewhat cooler and had some more salad, same as Tuesday minus the salami].

Friday 7 August
Lunch: pineapple rice [am at home on a day off so lunch was the last of the salad with a couple of slices of toast, one to mop up the leftover dressing and one smothered in raspberry jam as dessert]
Dinner: bread and cheese

In other news I finally finished the patchwork blanket I was making for a friend's 40th birthday and managed to give it to him for his 41st. Was up early that morning trying to get it finished and it is decidedly more amateurish looking than I was hoping for but I just wanted to get it finished so wasn't being too careful about the end of it. I reckon the next time I visit him I'll have a go at blocking it and maybe that will help! Wish I could say it received a rapturous reception but unfortunately he was still half asleep when I was leaving so I just told him I had left his present there for him and when I phoned the next day to see if he had remembered to look I caught him just as he was heading out the door to work and all I got was a bit of a distracted 'yes, I liked it'. Disappointing but it's so nice to be finished I'm not that bothered. I'll probably visit again sometime in winter so if he's using it, well and good and if not then I'll tell him how much my brother liked it and offer to make him something else instead. I have a few dozen squares left of colours that I decided didn't work with the overall colours I was using so I am going to put them together into a baby blanket for a friend who had a baby a couple of weeks ago. Honestly the double blanket didn't work as well as I hoped and one of the problems was that it was just too heavy. If it is used, I'd say it won't be long until it's completely dragged out of shape (which kind of makes me feel better about not getting to finish it nicely).

I also finally had my appointment for an MRI on Friday to see if there's anything in particular causing my foot numbness. They hadn't told me though, that if I was going to get something to calm me down I would need to take the full day off work so I've rescheduled it for in a couple of weeks and gotten an afternoon appointment. I didn't think I'd be too bad, it's mostly my legs that are clautrophobic and if I had been able to put something between them then I thought I'd be okay. But they didn't let me do that and then bloody hell that hole they were trying to put me into was small! She also started moving me backwards much quicker than I expected so my plan to have my eyes closed before I went in didn't work. I only held out until about half my head was in and nearly had hysterics. I was surprised at my reaction being that extreme and it took me a good long time to calm down. They've promised me that when I go back and get an injection next time, I'll love it and want to come back every day. I'm not too sure that valium (which they mentioned and I assume is what they give you) is all that good and am very nervous about going back but it has to be done. At least the appointment is for a Friday afternoon so I'll have the weekend to get over it.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I am a snapdragon

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Apparently mischief is my middle name, but my first is friend. I am quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh.

Doesn't sound like me at all, at all.